Monday, December 31, 2007
I'll allow you to read his blog rather than attempt to speak from my own limited experience on this island, but my position is that if the U.S. government is not going to offer these neo-colonies independence, then they should at least offer them the same level of sovereignty that the rest of the states are afforded: votes in Congress and votes in the Electoral College. In other words, full statehood and equal standing with the rest of the nation.
This is no small matter. The U.S. has granted suffrage rights to women and racial minorities, but has yet to offer full suffrage to citizens living in U.S. territories. The only solution is to end the practice of keeping territories. The fact that we have U.S. citizens who do not possess the right to vote for President or a vote in Congress on the basis that they live in the wrong part of the U.S. is criminal, and it's hypocritical of us to pretend that we believe in the principle of "all men are created equal" when we do not treat our own citizens equally.
Let me clarify that one point for my haole friends and family back home: the people of Guam are U.S. citizens, but many of you don't even know that Guam exists. This needs to change, and I am going to see to it that it does.
However, I recognize that this type of change does not come of its own accord. The people of these U.S. territories need to demand the change and not take "no" for an answer. This is how women won the right to vote, it's how the labor laws of the early 20th century were passed, and it's how the civil rights legislation of the 1960s was passed. It's also how our territories are going to win, at a minimum, equal standing with the states, if not outright independence.
Power is never given; it is only ever taken. So to my neighbors on Guam I say, "take the power back".
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Azul has already agreed to come on board as a contributor, and once we get her permissions straightened out, she will begin contributing here shortly.
This does not mean that I will be posting less frequently. It just means that in addition to my normal posting, I'll now have a team to keep the place buzzing while I'm away. This is all to better serve you, the dear reader, and to attract more of you. Finally, this is a way for me to give a platform to people who were not already blogging on their own and who I feel really ought to be heard. Win-win, as far as I'm concerned.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
While much has been made about Bhutto's prediction that anything that happened to her would be because of Musharraf, it is conceivable that Al Qaeda, seeing an opportunity to destabilize a government that has otherwise been friendly to U.S. interests, could have taken it upon themselves to kill two birds with one stone by taking out one of their most outspoken opponents and making it appear that Musharraf had a hand in it. Musharraf, of course, has brought this upon himself with his heavy-handed tactics, including the military coup which brought him to power in the first place. Still, this has potential to devolve into a civil conflict in which the only winners will be the jihadists whom both sides ostensibly oppose.
Benazir Bhutto had long been an outspoken critic of Pakistani militants and this made her the mortal enemy of a galaxy of extremist forces inside Pakistan. "Bhutto was the only Pakistani politician willing to stand up and say, 'I don't like violent terrorists,'" says Stephen Cohen, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Many of these groups have intertwining histories and common loyalties — as well as shadowy links with Pakistani intelligence. As the probe into her assassination begins, investigators will have to sort through a morass of violent groups that were gunning for Bhutto. And while all have some historic link to al-Qaeda, they have just as much ideological impetus to act on their own — or at the behest of rogue elements of the Pakistani government sympathetic to Islamic radicals.
In a briefing Friday, the Pakistani government emphasized that al-Qaeda had Bhutto in its sights. "As you all know, Benazir Bhutto had been on the hit list of terrorists ever since she had come to Pakistan," said Javed Iqbal Cheema, the Interior Ministry spokesman. "She was on the hit list of al-Qaeda."
Following the Kennedy assassination, there was a concerted effort by factions of the right to find a way to blame it on Castro, or even the Soviet Union (much the way the Bush administration set about trying to blame 9/11 on Saddam Hussein). The aim was clear: exploit the Kennedy assassination to provoke a final showdown with the communists, something that Kennedy had stood in the way of as President during the Cuban missile crisis. Johnson set about reassuring the public that Oswald had acted alone, out of fear of the disaster that a nuclear exchange would bring. Still, while the CIA may not have been involved in the Kennedy assassination, it's clear that the tactic of exploiting a highly traumatizing event as a catalyst for a policy that would not otherwise be possible is not a new one. If Al Qaeda assassinated Bhutto as a way of sparking a Pakistani civil war, then they are simply taking plays from the CIA's handbook. This is disconcerting for a number of reasons:
- Their tactics are growing more sophisticated. In the past, they've focused on large numbers of civilian casualties as a way of demoralizing their enemies. This is a low-grade and very ineffective tactic without annihilating people in the thousands. It's a high-risk, low reward tactic. If they assassinated Bhutto for this reason, then it shows they've learned much about manipulating people in order to meet their ends.
- It's unclear precisely what their aim was in the 9/11 attacks, but given their lack of interest in hitting the U.S. in the U.S. since then, one must raise the question: why haven't they? Neo-con pundits like to use this as their trump card in any discussion on the effectiveness of Bush's strategies, but the conclusion may be the opposite of what they like to imply: given that AQ is still active in the world, one may conclude that they have not attacked us because there is no need to. In short, everything we've done has been according to their plans.
- If they can provoke a civil war in Pakistan and wait it out until both sides of neutralized each other to the point that they and their Taliban allies can simply step in and take over, then you have a nuclear-armed Islamist state, something that the Iraq War was ostensibly intended to prevent.
- Musharraf, far from putting U.S. aid toward combating these extremists, has been building up his arsenal to take on India, another U.S. ally. A civil war which places this arsenal in the hands of bin Laden's allies could result in a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India, with much of the Middle East siding with Pakistan, and the U.S. forced to come to India's aid. Russia and China, whose backyard this would play out in, would be major wild cards, and might not necessarily side with the U.S. In other words, all of this -- all of it -- has potential to spiral into the World War III that Bush warned of when speaking against Iran. Yet he's been too blind to see the danger to global stability that his BFF Musharraf has played all along.
We are being dragged toward a third world war by religious extremists in the Middle East and the U.S., and now an end-timer whacko is leading in Iowa's polls for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, while a short-sighted, opportunistic hawk is leading the polls for the Democratic nomination. "God help us all" is what I would say if I believed in God. Instead, I will simply say that it is imperative that people start paying attention to what's going on and act.
Update: Apparently, Al Qaeda's leader in Pakistan has denied involvement in the assassination:
Frankly, if they were behind it, they would have every reason to deny involvement. Their goal would clearly be to spark a civil war in Pakistan, and that goal would be thwarted if they claimed responsibility.
The reason given for denying involvement is specious, at best. That attacking a woman would go against their tradition? Given their complete disregard for human life, as well as the fact that they've historically killed indiscriminately when attacking civilians in the past, it seems unlikely that they'd be squeamish about putting to death a woman who would presume to ascend to political power. In fact, it would be completely in keeping with their Islamist values.
I don't know if AQ was behind this attack or not, but they have every reason to be, and much more to gain than Musharraf.
Friday, December 28, 2007
I'm honored, and I've recommended to him three other bloggers who are worth bumping for the "Au Peer" award he'll be posting. I'll post the three blogs I recommended after the selection has been made.
If you haven't been out to Monkeyfister's blog, it's quite good, and he updates it much more frequently than I update mine. It's definitely worth checking out. However, if this award results in more hits for my blog, then I might have to be a bit more diligent about posting. Not a bad thing, of course.
One point of clarification: Monkeyfister describes me as "highly decorated". I consider this a rather generous assessment of my military career to this point. It's true that I've received some awards and decorations over the course of my career, but my array of ribbons does not include anything higher than an Achievement Medal. For disclosure purposes, here is a complete list of my awards and decs. I am proud of my achievements, but I do not wish to misrepresent them:
Basic Training Graduation Ribbon
Professional Military Education Ribbon
Longevity Ribbon (for four or more years of service; I have 7 1/2)
Air Force Expeditionary Ribbon with Gold Border (x2)
Global War on Terrorism Service Ribbon
Iraq Campaign Medal
National Defense Service Ribbon
Air Force Good Conduct Medal
Outstanding Unit Award
Air Force Achievement Medal (x3)
Joint Service Achievement Medal
John L. Levitow Award (top graduate, Airman Leadership School)
Warrior of the Week (447 AEG, Sather AB, Baghdad, Iraq)
Thank you again to Monkeyfister and all my readers for your support. It means a lot to me.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
(Someone helpfully suggested that I not make it autoplay. I agree, and have made the change.)
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Fury in New Orleans as housing demolition OKd
NEW ORLEANS -- After protesters skirmished with police inside and outside New Orleans City Hall on Thursday, the City Council voted unanimously to approve a federal plan to demolish a vast swath of public housing.
The fate of the 4,500 public housing units has become a flash point as this city struggles to piece itself back together after Hurricane Katrina damaged more than 134,000 homes, many of them in poor, mostly black neighborhoods.
Tents line the Interstate 10 underpass and a homeless camp has settled outside City Hall.
Even before New Orleans' seven City Council members took their seats for the public meeting, protesters were booing and pumping their fists.
"Why y'all standing behind the curtains?" a woman called out to council members who waited at the back of the council chambers for protesters to calm down. "This ain't no stage show! Get out from behind those curtains and tell us why you want to demolish our homes."
Oh, so now the press notices. Greg Palast has been on top of this story for a while now.
[Thurs August 30] "They wanted them poor niggers out of there and they ain't had no intention to allow it to be reopened to no poor niggers, you know? And that's just the bottom line."
It wasn't a pretty statement. But I wasn't looking for pretty. I'd taken my investigative team to New Orleans to meet with Malik Rahim. Pretty isn't Malik's concern.
We needed an answer to a weird, puzzling and horrific discovery. Among the miles and miles of devastated houses, rubble still there today in New Orleans, we found dry, beautiful homes. But their residents were told by guys dressed like Ninjas wearing "Blackwater" badges: "Try to go into your home and we'll arrest you."
These aren't just any homes. They are the public housing projects of the city; the Lafitte Houses and others. But unlike the cinder block monsters in the Bronx, these public units are beautiful townhouses, with wrought-iron porches and gardens right next to the tony French Quarter.If this is the first you've heard of the death of New Orleans, go to Greg Palast's website, http://www.gregpalast.com, and do a search on "New Orleans". You'll find it quite enlightening. Or else pick up a copy of his book, Armed Madhouse, where you'll have a chance to get current on these types of things (at least current as of 2006). I'm sorry if that sounds snide, but I just watched the city of New Orleans, who is like an old friend, die while the entire nation stood back and did nothing. The city could have recovered right after the storm, but over two years later, the city has been gutted of its core identity. Oh, you'll still be able to go there and get a hurricane or a hand grenade and toss beads to young tarts... but the city's residents were always the city's soul, and that soul has shuffled loose the mortal coil. Go to Mardi Gras if you will, but you'll be dancing on the corpse of a great city which once was. New Orleans is quickly going the way of St. Louis in a matter of years, whereas St. Louis took generations to get to the point it's reached. Many people told me they were tired of hearing about New Orleans. Well, fear not; you'll not hear about it again... ever. The screaming in the video attached to the L.A. Times article was its death cry: residents being hosed down with pepper spray while protesting the demolition of their homes. It's over.
Fare thee well, old friend. I'll not see the likes of you again, I fear.
UPDATE: Here's a few words from someone who was there:
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Pundits and TV anchorcreatures love pronouncing about politicians ’ “character,” when all they’re really talking about is personality. Hence glib, superficially charming candidates invariably win plaudits in the reality-TV epics we call presidential elections. This year’s GOP Prince Charming is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. When it comes to ingratiating himself, few surpass the one-time Baptist preacher. He’s witty, he’s warm, and doggone it, people like him. Character consists of something deeper. That’s why it’s important to know the truth about Wayne DuMond, the serial rapist and murderer Huckabee freed from the Arkansas penitentiary to kill again. Unfortunately, that’s the last thing you’ll hear from the candidate himself.
Today, Huckabee alibis that nobody could have predicted DuMond’s Missouri crimes. Many people did. Even this column warned that: “Rape’s not a crime of passion; it’s a crime of rage. Violent sex offenders, innumerable case studies show, keep at it until something stops them. If Huckabee doesn’t understand that, he’s got no business getting involved.” Instead of backing off, Huckabee got tricky. He held an improper closed-door meeting with the parole board, several of whom say they’d felt pressured. Last week, Huckabee’s then-chief counsel, Olan “Butch” Reeves, basically seconded their claims. After the board voted to parole DuMond to Missouri, Huckabee wrote a “Dear Wayne” letter stressing “my desire... that you be released from prison” —the proverbial smoking gun he can’t now rationalize or whine away. Angry Missouri cops say DuMond’s victim’s severed bra straps were like a calling card. They found his DNA under her fingernails. Huckabee’s latest book claims that DuMond died in prison before coming to trial. In fact, he was convicted of murdering Carol Sue Shields on Nov. 12, 2003, and at the time of his death was a leading suspect in the murder of a second Missouri woman. You’d think Huckabee might have noticed.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
My problem is that she's addressing the problems that boomer politicians have hit a dead end on. We haven't meaningfully moved forward on these issues during the era of boomer politicians. All the major civil rights legislation was signed while the WWII generation was still in charge. And as far as issues of war and peace, we've been moving notably backwards.
The '60s opened up huge and important conflicts. It was not all about boxers or briefs, inhaling or not. Issues surfaced around black and white relationships, male and female relationships, gay and straight relationships, all kinds of authority and our place in the world. These still go on. Not because they are relics of old college dorm fights but because they are still important and unresolved. Now we come to the 2008 primary season. Barack Obama is an appealing icon of change. He has the capacity to turn a problem around, roaming across its many surfaces. He gets it. His philosophical frame of mind appeals to the educated elite of the Democratic Party. His largest group of supporters are college-educated. But I am forced to ask, against my own grain, whether Democrats need a philosopher or a combatant.
In his stump speech, Obama says, "I don't want to spend the next year or the next four years refighting the same fights. ... I don't want to pit red America against blue America." Neither do I.
Sometimes, I approach politics like a parent watching her children: "I don't care who's right and who's wrong; just stop fighting." But of course I do care who's right, who's wrong, who'll win. What if red America is pitted against blue America?
Sometimes the way to stop a fight is to step back and let cooler heads prevail. I don't know if that will work here, but I've grown weary of the back-and-forth finger pointing. More energy is being spent trying to figure out who to blame for the Iraq War than was ever spent on figuring out whether we ought to do it or not.
I'm seeing this adversarial boomer mentality everywhere I go on the Internet, and I'm tired of it. I'm tired of being angry all the time and never accomplishing anything. I'd like a President who will use the Presidency for the betterment of our nation, not as a stick with which to beat the opposition. We've had a fighter in the Presidency for the past seven years; how's that worked out for us?
As long as the debate is framed in terms of, "I'm right and you're wrong" rather than, "come, let us reason together", we will never get anything meaningful accomplished. Maybe that's a boomer thing, maybe it's not; all I know is that it's time for a different type of politics, and we're not going to get that from the same old faces we've been seeing the last fifteen years.
"But I am forced to ask, against my own grain, whether Democrats need a philosopher or a combatant."
The crux of the problem is contained within that statement. I am unconcerned about what the Democrats need. I am concerned about what my country needs. What America needs. I'd like it if my President felt the same way.
Monday, December 10, 2007
I'll argue that most in the Congress are far from being boomers, but that doesn't change my agreement.
I'll argue that they are most definitely boomers. A statistical breakdown of the 110th Congress:
• The average age in the 110th Congress is 57. The average age of House members is 55.9; the average age of senators 61.7.
• The average age of freshman members of the House is 49.3 and the average age of freshman members of the Senate is 54.2
The generally agreed-upon birth year heralding the end of the baby boomers and beginning of Generation X is 1964, although "cusp" periods can be fuzzy. (Example: Obama was born in 1961, but he's generally considered a member of Gen X, since he was born in a cusp period and that's the generation he identifies with. I myself was born in 1978, another cusp period that places me squarely between Gen X and the Millenials, but I identify more with Gen X.) The average freshman senator was born in 1953. The average freshman congressman was born in 1958. The overall average is even older. Were Generation X stepping up like we should be by now, the average age of the freshman members would be more toward the late 30s and early 40s. It isn't. It's still boomers running for Congress, and lack of fresh blood may be a reason for some of the problems that our current Congress is experiencing.
It'd be easy to blame the boomers for not mentoring us to take over the reigns (and that's something Gen X will have to take upon themselves to do for the Millenials), but we've not, to date, given them any reason to believe that we're interested in taking over the family business. And to be fair, the WWII generation held on for over thirty years between Kennedy and Bush I, so the boomers probably figure they have time. Simply put, as you stated, Gen X have to take the power; it's not going to be given. It may not necessarily happen this coming election cycle, but we need to start getting serious about beginning the generational transition. Part of that will be asserting ourselves in congressional elections, and the coup de gras will be electing a Gen X President. Whether one considers Obama to technically be a Gen X-er or not, he certainly fits the description of our generation. That might be enough.
The boomers often disrespect us rather blatantly, much the way the WWII generation disrespected them. It's only natural. Respect can only be earned, so we need to set about doing that.
Thanks again for the encouraging words.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Enter baby-boomer Arkansas governor Bill Clinton. Clinton was going to turn the country around. With lofty talk of universal health care, equal rights for gays in the military, and balancing the budget, it seemed that the time had come for the baby boomers to make the generational transition and take the wheel. And so they did.
Early on, Clinton fumbled his first few efforts. Gays in the military had to accept a half-baked compromise: "don't ask, don't tell". Go ahead and serve in the military, but you'd best pretend you're not gay. Then came universal health care. Again, Clinton fumbled the ball. He handed the task off to his wife, who managed the process poorly. She invited lawyers into her fold and devised a health care plan, as it was put at the time, "by lawyers, for lawyers". It was summarily shot down by the Democratic Congress and never heard of again. Nearly sixteen years after candidate Clinton promised universal health care, America still has 40 million uninsured Americans.
Credit where credit is due: the boomers did balance the budget, but it must be noted that this was for a very short period of time. Clinton also oversaw the largest economic expansion in U.S. history; no mean feat. Finally, he deserves credit for his role in the Northern Ireland peace process, essentially the European equivalent to achieving peace between the Israelis and Palestinians (something he was unable to do).
But if we are to credit boomers for their successes, we need to also address their shameful antics, as well as the abject failures. For Clinton is not the only face of the baby boomers in the 90s: the other is Newt Gingrich.
For the Republican side of the ball, Gingrich represented a new life to the Republicans. He managed a take-over of both houses of Congress. The Republican Congress had a number of accomplishments: welfare reform (which Clinton successfully took credit for) and through work with the President, they achieved the largest budget surplus in American history. But then they took their eye off the ball. Instead of working with President Clinton to bring America into the 21st century, they exacted petty pay-back for Nixon by impeaching him over a consensual affair with a White House intern. The Clinton impeachment would become emblematic of their remaining time in power. Time and again, they would turn their old grudges into the nation's business, as though ending poverty and racism were less important than getting pay-back for various perceived slights. It can be said that the baby boomers peaked early, jumping the shark during Clinton's second term.
Fast forward to 2000, featuring a Presidential election pitting perhaps the most capable and talented politician of their generation against perhaps the least capable and talented politician of their generation. We all remember how that went down. The highly intelligent and experienced Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote to the dim-bulb Texas Governor George W. Bush (with the help of some cheating in Florida, perhaps as pay-back for the cheating that got Sen. Kennedy elected over Vice President Nixon). For the first time in ages, there would be a Republican Congress and a Republican President.
And everything went to shit.
The economy took a dump. The record budget surplus became a record budget deficit. The largest terrorist attacks on American soil destroyed the World Trade Center, ended 3,000 lives, and killed our collective sense of security. Bush invaded and conquered two countries in response, neither of which led to the capture of Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader of the organization named as responsible for the terror attacks. Over 3,000 American soldiers dead in the sands of Iraq. Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast, wrecking Biloxi, MS, flooding New Orleans, LA, and killed over 1,800 people. George Bush ate cake. And now it turns out that Bush was trying to lead us into another war, this time with Iran. The new Democratic Congress hasn't shown the fortitude to stop him, even with his hand caught in the cookie jar, post NIE release. And, of course, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Democratic front-runner shrugs and acts as if voting for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, which contained language which pushed us toward war with Iran, was no big whup, even after her "if I would have known then what I know now" excuse regarding her "Yes" vote on the Iraq War resolution in 2002.
It occurred to me that the remarkable similarities between Iraq and Vietnam are no mere coincidence. The boomers never truly resolved the Vietnam War in their collective minds, so of course they had to fight it out again in the sands of Iraq... and on our backs. If this is the case, then it shows just how important these old political grudges (many, like Vietnam and Watergate, dating back to before I was even born) are to them: they are more important than the lives and well-being of their children and their children's children. Is that too harsh? Perhaps. But it's not as harsh as the conditions they've put our generation into: war without end, deficits numbering in the hundreds of billions, a national debt numbering in the trillions, record oil prices, and...
...what are the Democratic candidates for President of the United States offering us if we vote for them? Universal health care, equal rights for gays in the military, and balancing the budget. A candidate named Clinton. Does this all sound familiar to anybody else? Nearly sixteen years of boomer leadership: nothing gained, nothing resolved. Even the grudges are more pervasive than ever. I've heard more than one Clinton supporter talking of pay-back if she gets elected. Enough already.
I've come to a stark conclusion: the grudges of the baby boomer generation are too all-encompassing for them to overcome for the good of the country, and they render the baby boomers completely incapable of governing effectively. Al Gore, perhaps the greatest hope for the boomers to redeem themselves, has said "fuck it", picked up his ball, and gone home. Beyond that, who do we have? Hillary Clinton? It's like the boomers aren't really even trying anymore and have already been relegated to yearning for the "good old days", which were never really all that good to begin with.
The time has come for Generation X to step up to the plate for the good of the nation... and the world. This is not to say that we don't have our own issues. We are somewhat late to the game, and we frittered away our early years on existential pondering of what our grand purpose in life even was. In that sense, by not acting as our parents' conscience as the boomers did for the WWII generation in their youth, we have some measure of responsibility for how bad things have gotten. But clearly, like father like son, President Bush has steered the country into a ditch, and perhaps it's fitting that, like his father before him, the end of his Presidency hails the advent of a new generation of politics.
Our time has come, and it is my sincere hope that we will rise to the task. As we speak, the first Generation X Presidential candidate is seeking the Democratic nomination, and it is somewhat fitting that he is a mixed-race man who didn't know his father growing up. Generation X was been described as a generation possessing only a hazy sense of itself (is Obama black or white? Does it really matter?). In Fight Club, one of the most influential books/movies of our generation, we were described as a "generation of men raised by women". Obama fits that bill as well. It should be noted that Tyler Durden then said, "I'm wondering if another woman is what we need." It's almost prophetic, really.
But this is not a call simply to vote for Barack Obama, although it fits the narrative. This is a call for Generation X to step up to the plate in all areas of politics. That boomer congressman who's been sitting there collecting pork and kickbacks since 1994? Out. Better yet, run against him. You may be surprised to learn how many Gen X-ers feel as I do, and agree that it's time for us to take the wheel. Tired of being told that we're not good enough, that we'll never be as kewl as the groovy boomers who marched against the Vietnam War, don'tcha know? Do something about it. Above all, we need a generation of leaders who don't have quite so much fucking baggage as the boomers do. Because we're not divided along ideological lines the way the boomers are, we might actually be able to get something accomplished. And remember, the battles we've been fighting are the battles of our fathers, who were never there for us anyway. So how 'bout we stop squabbling for a moment and take the car keys away from Mom and Dad?
For their own good, of course.